Why, do you know him?â
âYep, I know him.â
âYou sound doubtful. Donât you like him?â
âSure,â said McAllister. âI like him fine.â
âWhereâd you meet up with him?â
âYou saw him perform then.â
âSure did. He was great.â
âHeâs come to Clanton to take on the local champion and Iâm hoping he runs his Goddam legs off, that he beats his head off and he makes him look the damn fool he is in front of the whole country.â
âPa,â Pat said, âyou shouldnât talk that way.â
âStrikes me,â McAllister said, âyouâre sadly lacking in local pride, Jim, if you want to see your local man beat.â
âSee him beat,â Jim cried, âI hope Gage kills him.â
Pat said: âPa, you know you donât mean that.â
âI mean every damn word of it.â
âWho is the local feller?â McAllister asked.
Rigby calmed down a mite.
âClem Brenell,â he said.
McAllister then saw just what Rigby meant.
âI seen Brenell,â he said. âI know how you feel.â
Pat said: âI donât know Why pa carries on so about Clem. Thereâs nothing wrong with Clem a good wife couldnât put right. Heâs just a little wild.â
âIâve told you, Pat, and told you again and again,â Rigby said, âthe boyâs the old manâs gun. Heâll come to grief, mark my words.â
âNonsense. Heâs a nice boy.â
âThat nice boy nearly had my hide yesterday,â McAllister said. âI wish I was Billy Gage and had the chance of knocking some of the stuffing outa him.â
âYouâd have your work cut out, Rem,â Rigby told him. âNow honey, I aim to put Billy and his manager up in the barn. Iâll make a coupla mattresses up with straw. Let me have some spare blankets.â
âHis managerâs cominâ too, huh?â McAllister said idly.
âWhenâs the contest?â
âDay after tomorrow. Why, the whole countryâll be there. I never saw such wagering in my whole life.â
Pat said: âPa bet two hundred dollars on Billy Gage, you know that? Two hundred dollars! And he talks about Clem being wild. If that isnât wild I donât know what is.â
âThat ainât wild,â Rigby protested. âThatâs a certainty. Gageâll knock his fool head off his shoulders.â
âBut he wonât run faster than Clem. Nobody can run like Clem.â
âAw, heâs Goddam perfect.â
McAllister said: âYouâre goinâ to be a mite crowded around here, Jim. Iâll move into town.â
They protested at once. They wouldnât hear of such a thing. They hadnât seen him in a long time and they wanted to see all they could of him. Besides, Rigby added, he could run and fight better than average and he might like to help Billy get into the peak of condition. That amused McAllisterand he said, all right, if they wanted it and he wouldnât be in the way, heâd stay.
Later in the day when he was fooling around in the corral with a young horse, a rig drove out from the direction of town. Driving it was none other than Harry Shultz. Sitting beside him was Billy Gage. Rigby and his daughter came forward to greet them, Pat stood there smiling and blushing and McAllister left the corral. Walking toward them, he watched them closely. Shultzâs face was worth seeing when he sighted McAllister. His mouth dropped and fear flitted momentarily across his face. Billy Gage exclaimed with what appeared to be genuine pleasure at the sight of him and hurried forward to shake his hand.
âWhy, McAllister, this is great. I wondered when weâd see you. Sorry I had to rush off from Abbotsville, but Harry had a telegraph from Clanton and we had to come here fast.